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Voices from the Heartland (10/29/99) Write to CD Shakedown
Mulberry LaneMulberry Lane, Run Your Own Race (MCA 1999) - Singing sisters Mulberry Lane, of Omaha, Nebraska, deliver their major label debut in Run Your Own Race. With harmony-laden vocals and solid pop production work, Run Your Own Race could be a girl-group surprise.

Mulberry Lane consists of sisters Heather, Jaymie, Rachel, and Allie, who grew up on a street called Mulberry Lane. All four write and arrange their songs collectively, and have voices that harmonize strongly.

Says sister Allie, "We definitely feel grounded coming from the Midwest. People here are close to the earth . . . What we try to do is always be honest with our emotions and music. We always write from the heart."

The executive producer for Run Your Own Race is Refuge label founder Don Gehman. The album was produced by Doug Trantow, who served as Gehman's engineer for such hits acts as Tracy Chapman and Hootie & The Blowfish.

Mulberry LaneRun Your Own Race brings to mind the folk/ballad sound of the Bangles on songs like "The Why" and "I Believe It's You." Another solid cut is "Crisis Line," with overtones of Paula Abdul or Belinda Carlisle. In addition, the group placed a single ("Just One Breath") on the soundtrack for the new Kevin Costner film, "For the Love of The Game."

Musicians on the album include Jaymie on acoustic guitar, David J. Carpenter on bass, Bob Harty on guitar, Steve Hopkins on keyboards and programming, and Doug Trantow on keyboards and drum programming.

Mulberry Lane has a sugary-sweet pop sound, delivered by the effortless harmonies of the four sisters and the impeccable L.A. production work. Look for Run Your Own Race.

Morning Becomes EclecticVarious Artists, Morning Becomes Eclectic (Mammoth Records 1999) - KCRW Radio, the public radio flagship station from Santa Monica, delivers the sixth in its series of recordings taken from the "Morning Becomes Eclectic" radio show (heard weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to noon, Pacific Time).

With 17 tracks, Morning Becomes Eclectic is the strongest in the Rare on Air series. The recordings are taped live during the radio show, and are less polished than the studio counterparts.

Sixpence None the RicherBut that's the beauty of recordings like "Kiss Me" by Sixpence None the Richer (the radio hit), the understated acoustic beauty of "Secret Smile" by Semisonic (a much better band than you would know from the "Quitting Time" radio song), and "Opus 40" by Mercury Rev (which sounds a lot like early 70's John Lennon).

Other artists with solid contributions include folk/rockers John Martyn ("Glory Box"), Joe Henry ("Monkey"), and Beth Orton ("Sugar Boy").

Beth OrtonWhile I was pleasantly surprised by the instrumental selection from jazz pianist Brad Mehldau ("Exit Music for Film"), I can't get into P. J. Harvey ("Is This Desire?"), and found that the Pink Martini track ("Que Sera Sera") misses the mark.

Morning Becomes Eclectic represents the best of college rock and contemporary alternative. Enjoy this 17-track collection.

Monsters, Ghouls, Goblins & Demons: The Essential Halloween Party Collection (Hip-O 1999) - This rock spooky collection arrives just in time for All Hallows Eve. With 13 cuts (naturally), the album covers a frightening range of material.

Halloween collectionMonsters, Ghouls, Goblins & Demons contains its share of novelty songs, including "Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers (a number 1 hit from 1962), and the eerie TV theme to "The Addams Family" by Vic Mizzy with His Orchestra & Chorus.

Also included is Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" theme, which charted at number 1 in 1984, and the bizarre 1996 hit, "They're Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Haaa!", by Napoleon XIV (which seems to be about his pet dog, on close listening).

Yet the album's best tracks are those that have indirect black-and-orange imagery, such as INXS's "Devil Inside" (which charted at number 2 in 1987), Oingo Boingo's horn-steeped dance cut, "Dead Man's Party," and solid update of Donovan's "Season of the Witch," recorded by Heretix in 1988.

Sam the ShamAnd especially listen for the back-to-back 60s tracks from Charles Sheffield ("It's Your Voo Doo Working") and Sam the Sham & The Pharoahs ("Haunted House," from the 1965 release, "Wooly Bully"). In particular, Sam the Sham singer Domingo Samudi had a fine blues voice, and a tight horn section that brings to mind Bill Black and late 50s hit, "Raunchy Pt. 2".

Monsters, Ghouls, Goblins & Demons will be on your CD player for longer than Halloween night. Look for this well-chosen collection.

GordonGordon, Gordon (Sony 550/Epic 1999) - Power rock quartet Gordon makes its recording debut after a three-year adventure. With producer Brendan O'Brien (who has worked with Pearl Jam and Rage Against the Machine) at the helm, the album has a solid groove and plenty of hooks.

Gordon consists of Chris Dye on vocals, Jeff Phillips on guitar, Dave Sobel on B-3 Hammond and keyboards, Greg Evanski on bass, and Lance Porter on drums. (Evanski and Dye are both members of the former West Coast band Dashboard Prophets.)

GordonYet the band has had a tumultuous history. Brendan O'Brien played bass on most of the album, with Greg Evanski joining later as bass player.

Halfway through the recording, singer Devin Kamin left the band to concentrate on an acting career, and was replaced by Chris Dye. And session man Josh Freese played drums for the album, while the band is now joined on the road by new member Lance Porter.

A friendDespite these personnel problems, the opening cut, "Fortified Grapes," is a solid slice of radio-friendly rock, and "Glow," has the rock anthem feel in the style now best represented by Collective Soul.

Listen for up-and-coming Gordon.

- Randy Krbechek © 1999

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